Parents screen big picture with reviewing service

March 08, 1993|By Gail Stewart Hand | Gail Stewart Hand,Knight-Ridder News Service

Confused about movie ratings -- especially when deciding which films your children should see?

Now there's hope, with a newsletter and phone line for parents who want to know what's potentially objectionable in movies rated PG-13, PG and, yes, even G.

Joanna Payne, an enterprising Southern California resident, reviews movies and gives parents the lowdown on how down and dirty the movies are. She counts the number of curses uttered and describes the violence and sexual content.

She also notes whether a plot is entertaining and suggests which age groups might find a story appealing. Best of all, she leaves what children should see up to parents.

"My job is not just to help parents avoid the movies they don't want their children to see, but also to help them discover really good movies and videos the whole family can enjoy. There are clean, warm, caring and wholesome movies out there," Ms. Payne said in a phone interview.

She calls her business Family Enrichment Services and charges $19 a year for a monthly newsletter. (For a sample newsletter, send a request with a check for $2 to 3438-A Foothill Blvd. Suite 216, La Crescenta, Calif. 91214.) Her phone line has information on movies within 48 hours of their national release. That number -- (900) 454-1009 -- only works with touch-tone phones and costs $1.25 per minute. The average call takes two minutes.

On a recent day, she offered information on these recent releases: "Homeward Bound," "Untamed Heart," "Sommersby," 'Matinee," "Used People," "Forever Young," "Aladdin," "Groundhog Day," "Cemetery Club" and "Love Field."

It takes a little while to get used to her recording, so keep pen in hand. She lists movies, and you press the number you want to know about. She notes potentially objectionable content and entertainment value.

Instead of saying swear words, she spells them rapid fire and gives the number of times used. She notes whether sex scenes are between married people and whether they're nude and actually shown or implied.

According to Ms. Payne, movie ratings alone "show how out of touch the industry is with family values. They are not detailed enough. I got so tired of being misled about movies based on trailers, ads and TV clips," she said.

Her motivation is simple: "I want to get families back to the movies again."

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